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SoEStudent

My first week as a trainee teacher

by Mel O’Connor (PGDE Maths)

I completed my undergraduate degree in Business in 2014. Since then, I ended up working in the technology industry in a range of product and customer facing roles. I’d always loved been in the school environment, taking advantage of various work experience and school-based roles during my time at university. When lockdown hit in 2020, I began to reassess my career choices as I knew I had fallen into an industry that I wasn’t particularly engaged with. I knew I needed to move to a purposeful and rewarding environment, so I applied for the Mathematics PGDE programme ready to start in September 2021. I completed an SKE in Maths over the summer to refresh my subject knowledge; suddenly it was time to leave my previous career behind and get started with my new life as a teacher!

My course started on Wednesday 1st September, and I spent the first three days (1st-3rd) with my Schools Direct partner, Sheffield Teacher Training Alliance. This was a fantastic opportunity to get to know the rest of the cohort, including students teaching other subjects on the curriculum. Sheffield Teacher Training Alliance had organised various sessions over these three days which were linked to the Core Content Framework. For some sessions, outside speakers came into deliver the lesson. I particularly enjoyed the sessions on ADHD and Dyslexia, where our presenters gave us a real insight into what it feels like to have those conditions. The activities we took part in really opened my eyes to the challenges faced and provided me with practical advice on how to support a student with ADHD and/or Dyslexia. At the end of the Friday session, those of us studying with the University of Sheffield said goodbye to our school’s direct cohort (for a little while anyway!) and relaxed over the weekend ready for our first week at university!

On Monday 6th September we started at the University of Sheffield in our subject groups. We spent the day getting to know each other, whilst important information about the course was dispersed between a few mathematics activities. I got up to speed with using the online learning environment and had the opportunity to check all enrolment activities had been completed. We were allocated small groups (3 people) to prepare for a school visit on Thursday. We needed to plan a 15-minute mathematical game to deliver to Year 7 students. I loved that we were able to get stuck into planning from the first day; this was also a great opportunity to get to know my peers.

On Tuesday, I attended a whole cohort (all subjects) introductory lecture, which included an informative speech from a local headteacher on what to expect from joining the profession — we are promised we are entering the best job in the world! During the afternoon I was allocated my group for EPS — a module during the course where we discuss and debate wider issues in education in small cross-curricular groups. I was happy to be able to work with students training to be teachers in other subjects, as I believe this will enhance my own learning as we will all have different experiences and perspectives.

On Wednesday morning, I again joined the Maths subject group and learnt about the history of the mathematics curriculum within the UK, learning how this had developed over the years. This was insightful in understanding how the curriculum had changed before, during and after my time at school. In the afternoon, I worked with my group to complete final preparations for the school visit on Thursday.

Thursday morning included another whole cohort lecture, where I was introduced to the assignments that I’ll be completing throughout the programme. In the afternoon the Maths group travelled to a local secondary school, to conduct our microteaching activity. We worked with a year 7 class in small groups; delivering our activity to three groups during the hour. This was a fantastic opportunity to get into a school during the first week and enjoy the school environment. We had created maths games for the children to participate in, which led to an engaged and fun atmosphere throughout the afternoon. In the evening I watched two documentaries focused on childhood poverty and a lecture on ‘equalities and fairness’, in preparation for the next day’s work.

On Friday with I attended the first EPS group discussion and debate. This took place remotely within in our small, cross curricular groups. We discussed the content we had watched the night before, making observations of how the knowledge may influence our future teaching practice. In the afternoon I returned to the university to attend another subject session, where I completed a reflection on the school visit and prepared for my primary school placement taking place the following week.

The first week and a half was jam packed of new information and a variety of activities. It can be a challenge to keep up with the volume of information initially, but I stayed organised by downloading all the materials to my laptop and taking notes electronically. There is a heavy workload and lots of independent work in the evenings, however, I felt energised and engaged throughout the week, confirming I had made the right career choice! I am excited to visit my local primary school next week and observe how Maths is taught amongst the younger year groups, before returning to university and preparing for my first placement in secondary school which starts in October.

Mel is a student on the PGDE at the School of Education, The University of Sheffield.

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